Strive for balance and harmony

Toastmaster of the Evening kicked off meeting on 17th October with an exercise in which the audience stood up and balanced themselves by lifting one leg up. This exercise brought the audience to the concept of balance, which was introduced as the meeting theme. Life is a whirlwind of finding time for family, work and leisure in general, therefore balance keeps us afloat and gives us the room to breathe.

“Extremes are easy. Strive for balance." = Colin Wright

Role Players

  • Table Topics Master – TM Suneeta Pathak
  • Table Topics Evaluator – TM Lim Mei Ann
  • Grammarian – Geneviève Lai, DTM

Word of the day: harmony (noun)

A situation in which the people are at peace and agree with one another; when things seem right or suitable together.

Synonym: agreement, consistency, balance

An example:  The executive committee works with the club members in harmony.

  • Ah Counter & Who Said What – Aziman Nasir, ACB, ALB
  • Timer & Tip – TM Syatrah Roslan

Timer’s Tip: Wrap up the speech when the timing device's light turns yellow to avoid an overtime.

  • General Evaluator – Jack Chin, CC, ALB

Prepared Speeches


The Black Dog by Lai Ling Ling, CC

Lai Ling Ling, CC, intrigued us by starting off with a story of a man who describes depression as the black dog that forever sits on his lap, follows him wherever he goes, and is an ever-present hound which lurks just out of sight but is capable of overwhelming the man at any given moment. For this reason, standing near balconies, railings or the edges of a train platform is daunting as he is afraid the black dog would tip him off the edge at any given moment. Ling Ling shared with us that depression is not just about being sad. More than 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression, including known celebrities such as Oprah Winfry, Beyoncé and J.K. Rowling.

People describe depression as being at the lowest point in life, as being ashamed in your own skin, or as an after-effect due to death of a loved one. It is hopelessness, anxiousness, or self-loathing. It can happen to anyone from different age groups, countries or religions. Depression is an 'invisible disease' because the signs of it are not glaringly obvious. Symptoms of depression differ from person to person, including loss of appetite, over-eating, insomnia, lack of energy, unexplained aches, and pain. Social symptoms include not performing well at work, avoiding contact with people, or neglecting hobbies or interest. Depression is often left without being remedied because people often feel ashamed of admitting it. One survey found that over 80% of people with mental health concerns would not get treatment for reasons of shame, anxiety, and fear. Most with depression put up a wall and act like 'everyone else'. Ling Ling wrapped up her speech with a quote by Robin Williams: "All it takes is a smile to hide it in your soul and no one will ever notice how broken you really were". The black dog targets anyone and hides anywhere, but depression can be treated so long as we don’t give up on ourselves, and so long as we don’t give up on others. The black dog can be chased away.

The Reality of Thoughts by Rahmat Tarsat, CC

Have you ever had thoughts that pop out without any warning? As you brew your morning coffee and enjoy the rising sun, a sudden thought crosses through... "You are an embarrassment."

Thoughts which question your capabilities or intelligence is what Rahmat Tarsat, CC, would call 'shame attack'. "I'm not a good teacher", a thought which strolled passed before when Rahmat took class attendance. There were also triggers during movie with friends when Rahmat had flashbacks of shameful memories of being frozen at a speech contest. These types of thoughts pass through like bombs being dropped, bringing guilt, shame and self-hatred. On a bad day, these thoughts bring heavy emotions that would keep Rahmat staying behind closed doors. Friends tell Rahmat not to think about the sad stuff and just be happy - if feelings are getting us down, and feelings are brought about by thoughts, supposedly in stopping the thoughts, one will be break free from an unhappy thought.  But, thoughts are beyond our control. So how do we break free from an unhappy thought?

From a self-help book gifted to Rahmat on her birthday , a trick to handling unhappy thoughts revolves around the idea of acceptance. Rather than attempting to stop the thoughts, instead, let go of control. When a painful thought arises, first... observe. Then, accept the thought as... just a thought. Rahmat recalled an embarrassing moment. A colleague had to cancel a trip to care for a family member. Rahmat was going on a trip to Japan and when the colleague wished Rahmat to have fun, Rahmat cordially responded, "You too!", much to Rahmat's immediate regret. Worse, she tried to salvage herself. "Have fun in Brunei!" Whenever memory of this conversation resurfaced, Rahmat felt she said such an embarrassing thing. However, now she tells herself there is no need to revisit the feeling of embarrassment since that moment is not something that is happening in her present time. Whenever embarrassing memories flood back into our minds, there is no need to resist or control the memories because these are just thoughts. Keep the memories as mere thoughts. All we have to do is observe and accept the memories for what they are.

There are other ways to stop unhappy thoughts:

  1. Rephrase it. Instead of thinking, "I am an embarrassment", change the thought to, "I am having a thought that I am an embarrassment".
  2. Visulize the thought as a written sentence, then play around with the format of the sentence: its font, style, size and colour. This helps make the thought less scary and less shameful to face.
  3. If the thought is in a spoken form, then play around with the volume, speed, or pitch, or even singing it out. This helps bring out the silly aspect of the  thought, and turn the thought from being shameful to being funny.
  4. If the thought is in the form of an image or a video, play around with the contrast and magnification. Have fun with the thought.

By doing these types of exercises above, Rahmat can see that random, shameful, unhappy thoughts, or whatever it is made up in the mind, are not truly the current reality. Negative thoughts are capable of bringing down our moods and leaving us stuck, which is why it can be tempting to try control and stop them. The reality of thoughts is that thoughts are really just there, so when they come, all we have to do is observe and accept them. Because a thought is just a thought.

Table Topics on Balance


TM Suneeta Pathak took over the Table Topics session with questions which had the audience scratching their heads while the speakers took their own spin to them.

  • Awfa was adamant on demonstrating balance using two loaves of bread. The two loaves make a sandwich so the filling will not collapse.
  • Gerald quoted, "Life is like the universe. Everything needs a balance."
  • Supatra mentioned that the outliers are initiators - things out of the norm or different from others. If there is an outlier, it will eventually topple over to an excess.
  • Melvin [a guest] is a businessman who obviously prefers to employ hardworking people, but recently he found out that it is not just about how hard the person works, but rather how smart the person works.
  • Rano, the attention seeker, found light thanks to his mother, who instead of spoon-feeding him, trained him to become independent.

Allen won the Best Table Topics. His advice on seeking balance is to step out of your comfort zone. By stepping outside the circle of comfort, it creates an imbalance. In our lives, if we always stand in the same spot, we would not expect anything new. However, if we push to the extremes, we can explore more in life.

Closing Remarks


In place of the President, Vice President of Education, Rano Iskandar, ACB, ALB, stepped in to give the closing remarks. He used the night’s theme and Thought-of-the-Day to close the meeting. Recently, he had to stay back in Brunei when he was due to board the aircraft. He was then whisked away to the emergency room. From that experience, he stopped his habit of eating Maggie instant noodles and snacking to achieve a balance towards a healthier lifestyle. Rano noted that "extremes are easy" when we strive for balance.

Written by TM Awfa Nawawi

Proofread by TM Lim Mei Ann